The kosher laws are supposed to raise an awareness of what we eat and a sensitivity to the needs of all living creatures–that is why the disconnect between kashrut and the humane treatment of animals is so discordant to Jewish values.
However, eco-kosher is not only an issue of demanding humane kosher slaughtering, as Rabbi Waxman raises, or even of prohibiting kosher veal where humane treatment is lacking, as was raised by the Conservative Movement this past year. Eco-kosher is really about drawing on our kosher consciousness to limit the negative impact our food and consumer choices have on the earth.
We can make a difference by buying locally produced and organic products and reducing our meat consumption. We can make a difference by wasting less. Such decisions support sustainable agriculture and better stewardship of the earth. When done in large numbers, true change can occur as market forces encourage shifts in the practices of agribusiness.
Our consumer power has been the focus of several efforts by the faith community. Joan Nathan’s recent article in the New York Times, “Of Church and Steak,” discusses this and was highlighted by Leah Koenig at the Jew and the Carrot.
Some might argue the only way to be truly eco-kosher is to be a vegetarian. However, I don’t think folks having chicken soup on Shabbat or a hot dog at a summer barbecue are the problem. The point of eco-kosher is not about being a food purist, but meeting the challenge of living our lives in moderation. That is really the essential lesson behind eco-kosher: to live our lives in better balance with the earth by living, and eating, with kosher consciousness.